Ravi Kapur: There’s so many Democratic contenders, folks that are obviously very well financed and have brand names themselves. What compelled you to support Senator Sanders?
Ash Kalra: Senator Sanders has the most diverse coalitions supporting him. That’s what it’s going to take to get Trump out of the White House. You have to bring out folks that normally will stay at home. His message resonates because working people have been taken advantage of for so many decades and the people are rising up and recognizing that. They support a Democrat that’s actually going to be there for them. And so you look at this crowd you see young people, old people, you see such a diverse community. That’s what it’s going to take to take back the White House and our Country.
RK: Tell me this, as the only Indian American in the California State Legislature, you have a lot of sway amongst Indian Americans, but many of them have supported President Trump, they’re supporting Michael Bloomberg, they might be supporting other Democratic candidates. What is it about Senator Sanders that’s going to resonate? Let’s face it, our community by and large has done very well, they’re educated and affluent. Why will Senator Sanders resonate with South Asians?
AK: He actually does, you’ll see a lot of South Asians actually do support Senator Sanders. And if you think about our face, whether we’re Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim, we think about more than just ourselves. And that’s why the #NotMeUs slogan really resonates. Sure there’s some folks that are going to be with more established candidates or with Republicans, but ultimately I think Senator Sanders is really the one that represents South Asians so well for our values and what we believe in. Let’s remember that there’s no doubt that the working class is more supportive of Sanders than other classes. There are some folks in the Indian community that have done quite well, so they’re not necessarily connecting with them on that. But I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of South Asians that are doing well that still connect with Senator Sanders because of the values that he represents and because that we know that we have a systemic problem in our Nation that isn’t sustainable. You can’t be right where we are, where I represent, where Congressman Khanna represents, one of the wealthiest places, in the wealthiest Country on Earth and have people sleeping on the streets. Having people one paycheck or medical emergency away from being homeless or bankrupt. It’s not moral, and it’s not sustainable.
RK: President Trump just came back from India, if Senator Sanders gets the Democratic Nomination, what is he going to do to appeal to this community who will, let’s face it, had bootstrapped, there was no support for the Indian American community coming up. For those people who are self made and have achieved incredible success, how do you propel those folks to not think about their tax cuts, not think about what could happen in a Sanders administration. How do you convince those people that Trump is the wrong choice versus Sanders?
AK: At the end of the day we have to decide for ourselves. Do we want to live in a nation where we care about the condition of our neighbors or not? I can’t morally speak to someone who is only going to look at their own bottom line. What I will say is that it does matter how others are doing because we’re eroding our middle class. So you may gain some wealth now, but ultimately it’s going to lead to an economic crisis. And secondly, and Congressman Khanna spoke to this, look at the Coronavirus. You could have the best health care in the world. If the people in your community that are around you, serve you your food, drive the Uber of Lyft cars that don’t get sick pay or health care, if they get sick it affects you and your family too. Ultimately I think that we are better off when everybody’s educated, when everyone has food on their table, some money in their pocket. You can still be wealthy and rich while caring about those that aren’t.
RK: Will we see outreach from Senator Sanders to specifically Indian Americans and South Asians. I’ve seen that he made some remarks about Kashmir which upset a lot of folks in the community. What kind of outreach do you see Sanders if he in fact gets the nomination?
AK: I’ve actually seen a lot of South Asians, especially young South Asians whose parents are pretty well off. The young people that grew up here get the fact that we need to have a multicultural presence in our world. They’re the ones that I think that are going to be part of the coalition that support Senator Sanders from the South Asian community, and hopefully they can get their parents to come along. My father voted for Senator Sanders, my whole family did, and my family doesn’t have to worry about health care or putting food on their table because they have a moral value, a moral value that I was brought up with as a Hindu. To recognize that what I do is not about being attached to material wealth, that at the end of the day we’re going to be judged by what we can do to make our world better. And that’s I think that’s the message that will resonate with the South Asian community.
RK: Do you see him making any messaging specific to Hindus? I do see some pro Muslim remarks, and some people have been offended by that.
AK: I get that, and I think that there needs to be an understanding that Senator Sanders is not pro Muslim, pro Hindu, pro Christian, he is really trying to build a coalition of multi faith, multicultural coalition. He absolutely has as a part of that coalition Hindus, and will continue to reach out to the Hindu community. Congressman Khanna and I are two prominent Hindu Americans that support him because we believe that he’s going to be able to unite everyone as americans together, but absolutely there’s more work to do, and that’s what we have to do between now and November.